Mets Want Angel in the Outfield

Angel Pagan is a man of extremes. If his name isn’t the perfect indication of that, his stats are. According to Jon Heyman, the New York Mets plan to offer Pagan a contract before the Decemeber 12 arbitration deadline. While this decision would have been a no-brainer as recently as a year ago, the 30-year-old outfielder is coming off a down year — where he failed to replicate the success of his 2010 breakout. With the Mets hoping to get younger — and cheaper — is keeping Pagan around the best decision?

Pagan virtually came out of nowhere in 2010. After years of part-time play with the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, he was finally given a shot at a full-time role. He did not disappoint. Led by a slightly inflated BABIP — and great defense in centerfield — Pagan was worth 5.5 WAR in his first full season. According to our leader boards, Pagan rated as the tenth best outfielder that year.

For a follow-up, Angel fell back to Earth. Though he was able to improve both his walk rate and his strikeout rate last season, his BABIP and defense took a turn for the worse. Pagan — who rated as the sixth best defensive outfielder in 2010 — posted the second worst UZR among outfielders last season. It’s difficult to judge a player by just one season of UZR, but players that alternate so drastically are much harder to accurately evaluate. Pagan has been a pretty decent defender over his career — particularly in the corners — so perhaps injuries sapped his ability to play a useful centerfield last season.

With that in mind, the Mets are hoping on a bounce back from Pagan in 2012. So long as his BABIP returns to normal — and he didn’t forget how to play the field last season — it’s a good bet Pagan will improve. He may not reach the heights of his 2010 season — which was fueled by great defense — but that’s still enough to make him a better option than the centerfield free-agents. Those free-agents might come slightly cheaper than Pagan — who is expected to make between $4-$5 million in arbitration — but none can match Pagan’s upside.

Based on the poor free-agent market for centerfielders — and the fact that teams are actively pursuing upgrades at the position, as evidenced by the Melky Cabrera trade, the Mets could choose to trade Pagan. Pagan, however, is coming off a down season, and the Mets would likely be selling too low on a player likely to rebound in 2012.

Considering all the factors involved, the Mets would be wise to hang onto Pagan for at least another season. Pagan is a likely candidate to improve next year, and he still comes relatively cheap. While he probably won’t replicate his great 2010, the Mets aren’t going to find a better replacement on the market. Betting on Pagan past 2012 is a risky proposition — considering his short track record of success as a full-time player — but hoping for a rebound next season is a smart bet. With a little bit of luck, Pagan can finally put his hellish 2011 behind him.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


24 Responses to “Mets Want Angel in the Outfield”

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  1. Radagast says:

    With the title, I thought this was an article about the angel Peter Bourjos and the trade rumors of David Wright…

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  2. Kirkwood says:

    Woah, I never noticed the irony in Pagan’s name until the first two lines of this post. Amazing.

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  3. TK says:

    What this article needs is more references to Heaven and Hell

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  4. Dunston says:

    Pagan missed some time in late April/May w/ an oblique injury, but he was more or less healthy the rest of the season (outside of the unfortunate bathroom incident against the Phillies). Are you suggesting that he had undisclosed injuries, or that the oblique injury lingered for 3 months?

    Otherwise, blaming his fluctuating UZR on a vague notion “injuries” seems a bit too convenient here, no? Isn’t it just as likely that he really is that bad in the outfield (and his playing multiple outfield positions has affected his stellar 08 – 10 UZR)? And if that’s the case, it’s unlikely that he’ll be worth more than his 4 – 5 million dollar salary.

    To my eyes, he played a terrible centerfield – he looked slow on his initial reactions and his routes were routinely terrible (particularly on any ball hit over his head and to his right). I’m a Mets fan, so I sincerely hope you’re right that he’s a candidate to improve next year, but I don’t see much as much cause for optimism in his numbers.

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  5. tcnjsteve says:

    No one has yet mentioned his chronic illness. Pagan suffers Colitis I believe, a recurring and often debilitating condition. In 2010 it was under control, in 2011 it flared up. Certainly that must have had some impact on his down season.

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    • Steve says:

      Just playing Devil’s (sorry, couldn’t resist) Advocate: but then don’t you have to factor that into any future projections?

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      • tcnjsteve says:

        Oh certainly, it’s a huge factor in projecting Pagan going forward. As a Mets fan though, the best you can do is hope

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    • Tommy2cat says:

      Pagan suffered two instances of an oblique strain last season, once at the outset and once in early July, when Jose’s hammy started acting up.

      I believe that his colitis depleted his energy and likely disrupted his equilibrium, although it’s not something he would want to make an issue of. I thought Terry Collins handle the issue poorly in the press – he appeared frustrated from the inconvenience that his centerfielder would have such a problem. (I like TC, but I didn’t appreciate his judgement in this instance).

      I met Angel Pagan last year. He’s incredibly strong – the muscles on his hands have muscles. I hope the Mets take a more compassionate approach to handling Angel Pagan. He was so glad to return to the Met organization and, by and large, has been productive at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths, nothwithstanding an occasional hiccup here and there.

      I think Pagan is a keeper. He really bears down at the plate in clutch situations – he doesn’t get that lost, far away look that one of our stars gets and he doesn’t get hper-aggressive like another of our stars that just hit the FA market. He bears down. I like that.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        tcnjsteve: I had no idea Pagan suffered from colitis, that certainly sheds some light on his struggles last season. Though the Mets probably should factor it into his future projections, it’s nearly impossible to predict a flare up with Colitis. Some patients can go a long time without experiencing symptoms of the disease, while others experience more frequent flare ups. As long as Pagan alerts his doctors of a potential flare up early, they can hopefully keep his symptoms manageable until the disease eases back into “remission.”

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  6. Mitch says:

    I think the Mets would be all over Andres Torres if the Giants non-tendered him though the chances of that happening may not be great. I think when all is said and done Pagan will have a bounceback year and being in his walk year should provide the motivation.

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  7. vivalajeter says:

    I wonder how much of his performance is a matter of motivation and work ethic. From what I’ve seen, he simply looked lazy last year – especially in the field. Almost as if his mind was elsewhere.

    This is his last year of arbitration (I think) so next off-season might be his only chance at any kind of windfall. I would think he’d be motivated to have the best year possible.

    As for his break-out, I think it started in 2009 rather than 2010 (albeit, in limited playing time). In less than 90 games, he put up about 3 WAR. To me, that made his 2010 a little more valid – although who knows how he’ll be in the future.

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  8. BlackOps says:

    Nice – this comment section is chock full of excuses: injury, colitis, and laziness. The truth is that he was eerily similar at the plate in 2011 as in 2010. Almost the entire difference in his WAR is from UZR fluctuation: from +15.4 to -14.3. He’s somewhere between 2010 and 2011, a conclusion you could make for dozens of players. 2-3 WAR for a centerfielder who makes 5 million – or corner outfielder should the Mets make room for Endy Chavez :) – is perfectly acceptable. If the Mets think they can actually impove from Pagan they’re probably wrong.

    He had an off season, but let’s not go crazy. 112 wRC+ in 2010, 99 wRC+ in 2011. Last year he received praise as an underrated player and now he’s a strong non-tender candidate. As I said, let’s not go crazy.

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    • Ron W. says:

      If the Mets do sign Endy Chavez and happen to find themselves within one out of winning the World Series, WHATEVER YOU DO, make sure you don’t put him into the game as a defensive replacement. You should leave him on the bench.

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    • Jon L. says:

      BlackOps: If you look at WAR, Pagan had just about the biggest dropoff in production from 2010 to 2011 this side of Aubrey Huff. He went from all-star caliber to replacement level. At least part of that dropoff was on offense, where his average, his power, and his OPS+ were below the level of his last two years.

      He did have an enormous change in UZR, but observers seem to confirm that the change reflects a real change in his performance (most likely due to his injuries, colitis, and laziness).

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      • BlackOps says:

        Thank you for telling everything I already know and said. I cited his offensive change (If you want to use WAR, a 11.7 run difference between the two seasons) with wRC+, and this article would not have been written if it was based only on his offensive performance.

        The difference between his defensive performance is a 29.7 change in RAR. So, like I said, almost the entire difference (maybe I should have just said a majority) was due to a UZR fluctuation and that his true talent level is likely somewhere between the two seasons. We can speculate what the cause was, or we can just simply say he had an off-year. Nobody in their right mind would ever say Pagan was a true +15 or -15 defender. I don’t really care what excuses you have for him, he just simply isn’t as good as 2010 or as bad as 2011.

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      • BlackOps says:

        P.s. Sorry for being such a dick.

        I was trying to drive the point that his one great and one awful season were both driven by defensive woes, which fluctuate a lot. I know he looked terrible in every way in the field last year, but I imagine he’ll be somewhere between the two extremes, for whatever my opinion is worth.

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      • BlackOps says:

        *defensive extremes not woes. Ah that first sentence is just completely messed up.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Not only that, BlackOps, even the change in the offensive numbers was due entirely to BABIP.
      2010 -> 2011
      15.3 -> 11.7 K%
      7.0 -> 8.3 BB%
      19.5 -> 24.0 LD%
      1.46 -> 1.42 bases-per-hit

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  9. Curtis says:

    I’m expecting his hitting to moderate to a point between 2009/10 and 2011, but I expect his fielding to recover completely to his earlier standard.

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  10. smb says:

    Whoa, looks so far like the Mets would’ve done well to listen to the argument in this article…Torres and Ramirez have pretty much stunk while Pagan has begun to tear it up. Then again, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t do something stupid in the offseason.

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